Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The pendulum swing of minimalism?

"I cannot control anything outside myself."
-Jon Jandai

I've been thinking a lot about minimalism. In style, in food, in life, in my home. The urge to purge is strong with this one. I cannot control the possessions of my family. I cannot control the environment and utilization of space and resources in my work office. I can control my own belongings, my personal spaces at home and at work.

I love small spaces. Efficient design. Paired down and focused collections of needed things.

I do not love cleaning, de-cluttering and having to pick up every day. I do not like chores, crowded surfaces, closets and messy spaces.

I am inspired by popular TED talks, books and blogs on reducing, de-cluttering, having and buying only what you need and love, what is beautiful and brings you joy. I listen to talks about living in smaller spaces, reducing the amount of space you need, the money it takes to maintain it, how living smaller means reducing stress, being more free.

I cannot help but feel like I am riding an emotional pendulum and the swing is bound to reverse. I start having visions of Bladerunner, Fifth Element, Ready Player One and other crowded visions of the future. I see humans packed in side by side, having less but somehow, somehow, consuming more. Being more. Taking up more space, creating more humans, tipping the ecological scales toward ruination with sheer volume, mass, hoards.

And I wonder, when will the minimalist trend slip from lofty goal (freedom, space, health, opportunity) to opportunity for condensed consumption (sardine living, destroyed ecology, fewer opportunities, overwhelming choice)?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Do you ever... just try it?

Sewing takes a lot of planning. If you don't know your order of operations ahead of time it's hard to make a beautiful, well-constructed garment, regardless of style. Working with a new pattern, for me, regularly requires pattern adjustments and muslins. As much as I love sewing I sometimes get stumped and lose motivation when those challenges stand between me and making a garment I want to wear.

My Pinterest boards are full of ideas for now and future garments. Lately I've been crushing on Eileen Fisher and minimalist style garments.I think a lot of it has to do with the season. Wearing fitted bodices makes me want a wardrobe change before I've even come home from work. I've been craving more A-line and cocoon like silhouettes. 

The silhouettes are clean and easy to wear. Looking ahead to winter I see them as great layering pieces with leggings and tights. And man-o-man are they quick to sew up! All of which has led me to crave details. Elegant solutions to necessary design features.

Clockwise from the top left: my favorite keyhole back I've seen, from Straight Stitch Designs, apron-style pockets insets at the waist instead of the side seam from Sew Different's coccon jacket tutorial, a bib front and cuffed sleeve on Merchant & Mills The Dress Shirt and a last, a popover placket tutorial from Craftsy. Incorporating details like these into my tried-and-true patterns gives me a chance expand my skill set with a little bit of a safety net.

This weekend I worked through 3 separate dresses, a bodice muslin and a pair of knickers. Yay holiday weekend sewing! I'm slowly whittling away at my mental to-do list, which seems to grow at the same rate that I knock things off!

One of my favorite makes of the weekend is this simple, black twill  t-shirt dress. I used my TNT t-shirt pattern a while ago to start experimenting with a-line silhouettes and t-shirt dress shapes. Now it was time to try some new things. I worked in the popover placket and apron-style pockets at the waist line. For both I followed the direction pretty closely of the above mentioned tutorials.

The pockets were so easy and satisfying! The assembly is essentially the same as any in-seam pocket construction. I serged all of my edges before assembling and sewing together was a breeze.

The placket was one of those things that made not a lot of sense while looking at the tutorial but I had a feeling would be easy to follow along and learn by doing. So easy! I would make the tail a bit longer next time so that I might make a neater, prettier tab at the end.

I can't wait to make this same configuration in another color, maybe a print! Such a good opportunity for color blocking! Or a contrast pocket lining. Or a contrasting/complementing placket. Excited to try it all again soon!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Getting Engaged, what a trip

In November I experienced the fascinating transition from living-together-couple status to engaged couple status. The proposal itself was pretty low-key. I had an inkling of what was coming when Mike asked to borrow some money and didn’t want to pony up any of the reasons. He finally spit something out about working with my mom on something followed by a quick, “Now don’t ask any more questions!” On the night of the proposal he asked me to make dinner for him (he does most of the cooking in our house) and we were having a nice time sitting together when he got up and shuffled around in his messenger bag. He came back to the table with a goofy look on his face and I made some lascivious comment about getting to touch him now and he said, “Nope, now it’s time for you to say yes or no!”

We spent the evening sucking on cough drops (both of us were under the weather) and giggling and poking each other and day dreaming about what we wanted our wedding to look like. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and saying, “You want to marry me!” Much joy and giddiness. As we daydreamed I learned that there is no end to getting to know someone. I wanted a small wedding, he wanted big. I wanted no bridal party, he wanted us to have a bunch of folks stand up with us. He wants a tux. I don’t want to wear white. On and on. Some things were surprises and some I expected. It was fascinating to hear about these things since we’d really not talked about any of it before. I asked him why that was and he replied, “You can’t give all of your cards away, you’ve gotta play some of them close to the chest.” What a funny response and what an accurate portrayal of parts of our relationship. I don’t know that we will ever know everything about each other but I look forward to learning as much as we can.

The best part of all of it? We get to be funny old people together! Almost immediately I wanted to start calling him my husband but first we have a few things to take care of. Like deciding who to tell first, and how. And we get to plan this big party.

One our watercolor rainbow splash invites. These were a lot of fun to plan and design!

As joyous as our engagement is, it comes with the necessity to share our news sensitively. Mike was married before and J’s mom will always be part of  our life. I’ve invested a lot in having a good relationship with her. As we discussed sharing news of our engagement J’s mom was second on the list. (J was first!) We didn’t want her finding out from our kid or on some social media site. Mike shared our news and once we knew that she knew we were able to share with the rest of our family. Like my mom.

As it turns out, I hardly needed to tell my mom. I learned that my mom and Mike worked together to have my ring made. My mom lives in NJ, we’re in MN. When Mike asked about any family rings my mom offered up the stones from a ring that my father had given her. The ring was a gift purchased when my dad won a pretty penny in the lottery. Having something sentimental is bigger for me than anything. My mom has a jeweler friend who helped turn the old ring into a new one with all three of them in cahoots unbeknownst to be. When I called my mom the day after the proposal she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She’d sent the ring via certified mail and Mike had been so full of nerves waiting for it to arrive that he couldn’t wait to give it to me, thus the casual at-home proposal. We talked a lot about how sneaky they’d been.

I sent a picture to my best friend with the question, “Want to go for a manicure tomorrow?” and the rest we mostly let happen as people “noticed” things. I look forward to sharing some of the oddness that is being an engaged couple. Like how everyone wants to know about the ring and how big it is. Or how much you plan to spend on the wedding. Or the questions, the constant questions, about what the wedding will be like. What about the marriage? The wedding is a day, a big party and a lot of money. With the wonderful goal and result of actually being married. When I’ll be able to actually call him my husband. And in the words of our kiddo, “Now you’ll be my real stepmom!”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Closet cleaning when you live la vida handmade

I feel a nearly unending desire to create. I draw, paint, organize, fabric shop, garment doodle, project plan and dream. I am a prolific sewist. I can create a new dress in a day, sometimes two and frequently have multiple projects in works. My to-do list is long and purposeful. At some point... my closet simply cannot keep up. 

My closet is packed to the gills. If I want to keep making, some things must go. I feel peculiar about simply donating my dresses to charity and thrift shops. As a plus-size sewist I know that my creations are a rarity. As a vintage-loving lady I know that thrift shops are where plus-size clothing goes to die. I don't want my dresses to die. And so, I consign, I sell and I instagram. 

This summer I also had the chance to participate in a vintage yardsale with a host of other vintage-loving Minnesota folks. I confess I was nervous about including my dresses. I felt very confident of bringing my hats, purses, jewelry and fabric. I felt confident that the pieces I loved so much and that had such size-neutral appeal would go quickly. I felt unsure that any fat woman would come to the sale. I felt unsure that any fat woman would be as large as I feel. I was shocked. 

I mocked up my sale table and felt great about my presentation. I am organized and have an eye for style. I have a good sense of space, composition and balance. I balanced out my rack of me-made garments with some amazing Lilly Pullitzer dresses I had found for a steal...

And here is how the day went: I sold a couple of hats. No bags. A little fabric. No jewelry. I sold HALF of my own dresses. I sold none of the true vintage clothing I'd brought. I was stunned. And tickled. One of the women who tried on my dresses came back from the dressing room with a dress clutched to her chest. I smiled and asked how it went? She smiled a timid smile and nearly whispered, "It fit perfectly..." Like the truth was delicate and fragile and speaking any louder would break the words and make them untrue.

Hearing that and seeing women try my clothing on made me feel like I was filling a void; I made them feel pretty, included, attractive and special. They found things there were special, that fit, that stood out from the oversized prints, patterns and shapes of modern plus-sized clothing. It made me want to go home and keep sewing. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Joining Bloglovin'! and what's up with this lady?

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Have you tried Bloglovin? Tons of my favorite bloggers are on there and I was pondering how to get myself more motivated to blog again and thought, I should throw myself in the ring! So, I have. New post coming later this evening!

Tonight's post will share some of the things that have filled the last few months: my engagement, a few of my friends beautiful babies, teaching and learning to make my wedding dress!

More soon!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Holidays in recap, no such thing as too late!

This post is crazy late but oh well. Can't thrash myself too much for that or I really will never blog again. Who knows who reads these mutterings, anywho, right?
This year marked the first time I stayed in MN instead of traveling home to NJ and Philly. I gotta say, it was a little weird. Here is a view of walking into work Christmas week. Minneapolis is home to the great Skyway, a human habitrail... Usually hoppin' with people in the morning. Bustling along to work, furiously thumbing their smartphones. On this day, however, I saw exactly 2 people in the Skyway. I dub this season in the habitrail, the sky-pacalypse!

Outside of the working world, though, it was all twinkle lights, wrapping paper and cookie dough. The night we decorated the tree we snapped a few pictures and I have to say this one of the three of us is my most favorite of us ever. It’s pretty much how it feels when we are home together.

Christmas Eve the Pickle had neither school nor un-school coverage so we got to spend the day home in our pajamas. I tried in vain to work and found myself being pulled away from my laptop by an overexcited 5 year old many times. Go figure. It must have been a holiday or something…! We made two batches of chocolate chip cookies and holey moley I thought the spooning and baking would never end! The recipe made enormous batches. Next time we’ll know better. Batter. Dough.

It was my first year playing Santa and I only snagged this one shot of the wrapping paper bonanza. I loved her exclamations of, “He knew just what I wanted even if I didn’t write it down!” Yep, that Santa’s a sneaky one…

The New Year brought a new vintage hat, an airport visit with my Uncle Evan(!) and seeing in the change with a smashing of plates at a friends’ house. I won’t say that we were wild or unruly but I wouldn’t deny that alcohol may have made us more enthusiastic. My friend’s lady friend didn’t like those plates anyway and was happy to see them go. Hurrah! *smash

We rounded out the holiday season with a trip to Racine to see my dude’s family. I was enjoying the couch and the company too much to be snapping pictures the whole visit but I did happily snap this one of the Pickle and her cousin building one of the largest forts I have seen in all my fort building days. They told me it had two floors. And No Grownups. Except for a brief tour for daddy.


Some of my favorite bits included my first purple Bakelite, this stunning and large brooch from the Pickle and a necklace,  and my first ever Malco Modes petticoat! My mom also sent out a package with some very sweet, thoughtful treats. Watching my dude and the kiddo opening the packages was fun and the items she sent made me a little teary. She included a cast iron bottle opener she’d found with dad on their honeymoon antiquing trip, a maiden size Bakelite bracelet for the Pickle and a carved black bangle for me. Each item felt laden with sentiment and I missed her more than anything seeing each item emerge from the tissue.

It was a great holiday season and it was nice to have everyone trickle back in to work after the holidays wrapped. Now we’re looking forward to the end of the month when we depart for a two week adventure in… South Africa! So pumped! Capetown and an intrepid trek to Lesotho to visit the village where I served in the Peace Corps. Just days away. And I promise there will be more pictures when I get back!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Outfit post: The Batter-Up! daydress

So this has taken forever! I finished this dress over the summer and have worn it a whole bunch of times. I was pretty damn pleased with the results. I did a post on the making back in August (August!?!?!) and here we are, live in the in the flesh. Or fabric.

I admit that a big part of what keeps me from blogging about my finished garments is really that I have a hard time snagging a good spot to take photos. With a 5 year old in the house and my full-time job plus teaching nights I get caught up with myself and have a hard time wanting to tear myself away from sewing versus taking pictures of the dresses and outfits I so love wearing. 

I am This reminds me of my most-hated habit people have in online dating personal ads: I'm so busy I can't meet people the usual way. Ugh. You're too busy to meet people? Great. Sounds like we have a great chance at making a go of things. *sigh* 

Dear readers, whoever you might be, I promise not to make sucky excuses in future about not being able to snap a few photos. Poor snaps are better than no snaps. Done. Moving on. 

This was my first try at making a dress with a pleated skirt. Like I said at the start, super pleased with the results! I did it free-hand using inverted box pleats. The only thing that really went wrong was the alignment of the front pleats with the waist darts. Fortunately the busy print keeps anyone by me from noticing. Woo?

Outfit details:
Dress- me-made, fabric from SR Harris
Cardigan- Gap outlet, shortened by me, similar here: Kinny and Howie
Shoes- Earth Shoes Solstice
Bracelets- various spots
Necklace- Christmas gift from my stepdad a few years ago